ActivStatsSaleh A. Wasimi
Faculty of Informatics and Communication, Central Queensland University
ActivStats is a software version of first year level university statistics. It uses written texts, diagrams, voices, and video clips to explain the basic concepts of statistics. The software was tested on a computer with 366 MHz Pentium processor, 128 Mb SDRAM, and Windows NT (version 4) operating system and there were no problems in either setup or execution of the software.
The organisation of the material is that of the traditional approach for an introductory statistics course. It starts with exploratory data analysis, continues with probability distributions, estimation, hypothesis testing, and finally ends with regression and correlation analysis. The non-traditional element added is the experimental design but the contents do not go far enough to embrace the reformed approach of statistics teaching, that is, it does not include total quality management and statistical process control.
It has a glossary and index, where the definitions of terms are concise and precise. The index provides appropriate reference to the main text. The operation of the software requires some knowledge about computers and assumes a certain degree of computer skills. However, beginners are guided so well that they will have little difficulty.
Going through the software sequentially gives one the feeling of flipping through the pages of a textbook. It does not take full advantage of the powerful tool of multimedia, where there can be a lot of interactions with figures, diagrams and decision trees, which is impossible in a printed textbook. Although some of the examples are from true life, each section has only one example which is quite inadequate for this course. Furthermore, correct answers are only acknowledged at the beginning, for instance, pressing true or false buttons at later sections did not make any difference to the presentation and one would never know whether one was correct or not.
The software can be an excellent resource material for lecturers to teach the subject because it would save them valuable time to prepare PowerPoint presentations of some of their lectures. It can be used as supplementary material by students but not as a text because it does not have enough depth. Then again, it is only worth it if it is cheap because most of the material is now available through the Internet.
One good thing about the software is that tables are provided for such a wide range of values, which is physically impossible to be included in any textbook. There are some minor bugs in the program, for example, stop watch does not show time required by an activity as mentioned in the text.
UniServe Science News Volume 14 November 1999
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